Bennerley

Johnny Hobbs

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Did anyone ever see Johnny Hobbs play at The Newcastle Arms somewhere behind Mansfield Road.

On stage was a piano with an old guitar amp perched on it and two mic. stands hold dubious looking microphones, Johnny played piano and clarinet, his partner Maurice Colman played guitar and they both sang.

The used to bring the house down with renditions of boogie woogie, blues and jazz on clarinet and Maurice singing old songs from the likes of Cole Porter and Fats Waller. There was a rumour that they were sacked for pulling in too many punters that were difficult to get out when time was called!

I came across Johnny again at the Blue Boar at Hucknall, we became friends and he ask me to join him on a regular Tuesday night gig doing vocals and playing harmonica. One night he phoned and asked me to do the show for him as he was ill. On that night the band consisted of myself, Annie Hawkins on double bass, Maurice Coleman on guitar and vocals and an excellent jazz drummer whose name escapes me. I remember looking at the assembled talent I was to lead for the evening and immediately thought this is going to be a disaster, but it wasn't [just] Maurice was on overtime that night, I did my bit plus a couple of blues on piano, Anne and her fabulous slapping bass style and the drummer kept it all together, apart from one minor hiccup when the drummer had to pop out for a while, no problem, I was learning the drums at the time purely as a hobby so it was the drum stool for me, it went fairly well, Anne did slightly mention she had a problem with the drumming style, it being basic four to the bar rock n roll with a back beat and not jazz, but the show had to go on and I was really glad when the drummer returned after his short absence.

Johnny had many guests whilst at Hucknall including, Paul Russell, drums, Bill Cole, bass and the fabulous Jill Ball, vocals, plus trumpet players, trombone players and I do seem to recall a jazz violinist. happy days.

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When the Blue Boar first opened, it did absolutely amazing steaks.

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I knew Johnny and used to see him at the Log Cabin, the Blue Boar and at the Arboretum, at the latter with Jyll Ball singing. He was always with Maurice Colman and very often with Annie Hawkins or Bill Cole. Apart from the piano, he played clarinet, drums and banjo. I have seen him sing all the many verses of Abdul A Bulbul Amir. His boogie woogie playing always went down well, with his silver chain and ornaments wrapped around his wrist jangling away (I can hear them now). Once, at the Blue Boar, the guest singer was Nancy Whiskey. Another highlight was him donning a gasmask and playing the old Vera Lynn song ' We'll Meet Again' ending with him operating a genuine (and deafening) air-raid siren. Without hesitation I would say that Johnny was Nottingham's greatest musical entertainer, and I was extremely disappointed that I did not go to his funeral (I didn't know that he had died).

He had an enormous 78rpm record collection and disposed of many of them at his shop at the Trent Bridge end of Arkwright Street.

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Well Chulla, I must apologise for misspelling Jyll's name, I knew it was wrong, I was hoping to put it right before anyone noticed.

I remember the W11 siren and I loved the boogie woogie piano, I used to spend a lot of time down at the shop and Johnny gave me piano tips mostly for left hand boogie patterns and also records of various sorts, probably ones he didn't like or had too many of.

Can you remember the "piano Battle" in the back room at the fox on parliament Street ? two pianos on stage and if I'm correct a drummer in the middle. There was Johnny himself and quite a few well respected local and not so local jazz pianists, including Fred Paye [ probably another misspelling] I think it was his mother who also played, there was a Scottish Pianist and for some reason I think Bob Hall was there. The memory's not as sharp as it was.

And of course there was the Johnny Hobbs 78's Disco, not as slick as modern disco's but the music was oh so much better!

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Did Johnny Hobbs come from Hucknall as there was a Pete Hobbs from there ?............

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Reading your post #1 Bennerley, btw welcome, you mention a Paul Russell. Is this the same person I use to work with back in the 80/90's?

He certainly was into jazz and I think played drums. Not too tall, dark hair with swarthy skin, to me he looked very typical of a jazz musician, probably because of his dress code. He was also an Architect. Just curious.

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Did he live in Silverdale in the 70's,I used to go to the Spanish Guitar Centre on Nottm Rd,he had a brother about my age? Same name attended my classes.

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Surely the same Johnny Hobbs who had the Johnny Hobbs Stompers at the 360 in Bulwell? Just a bit before my time, but I certainly recall a chap with loads of heavy bracelets etc. Think we already established that there was some overlap between Jazz finishing and the Soul/R&B and ultimately 'Northern Soul' discos starting.

I was discussing this with my old 360 Club 'oppo' Dave Pick last time we met in Liverpool a week or so back.

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Johnny lived on Newdigate Road in Watnall - his parents' old house if I remember. His father was a school headmaster. I went to his house once with friend friend and we talked about his jazz life. He went back to the very early post-war years. I never saw Johnny anywhere else but where I mentioned. I remember well his 78 disc jockey nights at the Log Cabin. He had different styluses the cater for the different record surfaces; to make them sound good.

I went out with Jyll Ball for a short period, but 'dumped' her as they say, because she liked going to the Imperial to see Mick Gill playing mainstream jazz. If there is any music I cannot stand at all it is mainstream jazz. Jyll, (who worked at the NAAFI offices on Bridlesmith Gate) was taking music lessons at the time and later became a very nice singer with a very nice voice. I went to her funeral, which was packed out with friends and those who remembered her when she was a singer.

Paul Russell and Fred Pay both played with the Mercia Jazz Band at the TBI (what great times they were). Fred sold some of his record collection one night at the TBI and I bought the LPs of The Firehouse Five.

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Chulla, I too paid Johnny a couple of visits at Newdigate Road and talked about the old days, did you know with The Stompers he had cut a record in Derby ? I can't recall him ever playing it to me, he probably wasn't fond of it! He also gave me an ancient record deck, power amp, pre-amp and a large speaker cabinet containing a 12" speaker, it must have been a full 30 "proper" watts, it was so loud, although it was mono I used it for years. Most of all he taught me a lot about jazz and blues, a great man.

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Yes I knew that he had a recording of his band, and there was reference to Orson Wells for some reason, though whether that was something to do with the recording I cannot now remember. His lady 'Do' might know.

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Goingll, back to the Newcastle Arms and Johnny Hobbs with Maurice Colman, I remember it well, a Selmar amp, an old dance band arch top guitar and the piano, what a sound! I heared something to the effect that they were let go because they attracted too many people, a rumour maybe, but a rumour I like to believe.

I remember seeing Johnny play at the Imperial on St James street, he did a tune, St James Infirmary with just clarinet and Bill Cole on bass! Absolutely brilliant. Little did I know then that soon I would be singing and playing blues harmonica with the great man fairly regularly at the Blue Boar, along with Maurice, Anne Hawkings, Paul Russel and many other great musician.

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I well remember Johnny Hobbs. I saw him perform many times at several venues but especially the Newcastle Arms, all of those silver bracelets must have weighed a ton, how could he play with all that incumbering him? He was a real virtuoso on the clarinet (possibly other instruments as well) I remember him playing St James Infirmary (as Bennerly) but gradually dismantling the clarinet as he played. It the end, all he had was the mouthpiece and reed with his hands cupped around them. It was an appalling squeak but still, the tune came through. He then proceeded to reconstruct, still playing, back to the whole instrument.

Was the violinist Bernie Cooper? His daytime job was as a bailiff!! Cooper had a duo act with Norman Barnacle paying tribute to Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli (Le Hot Club de France).

I worked at the same place as Norman in his daytime employment (he was an engineer) and I was a jazz "hanger-on" for quite some time

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I was looking back on this thread and saw Chulla’s reference to Jyll Ball. Does anyone remember when she used to sing with the Bob Hudson trio at the Green Dragon at Oxton on a  Sunday evening?

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Yup, Phil! I never heard Harry's band referred to as anything other than a trio. Don't know why. With Jyll ball it was actually a quintet, I guess!

I used to go regularly to the White Post Inn restaurant at Farnsfield and the Green Dragon to hear them. Made many good recordings too, which sadly got mislaid with the passage of time. - Pete

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